A Brighter Forecast for US Solar Market

Is the US solar energy market finally poised for growth? Based on data from the first quarter of the year, solar installations in the US have doubled from 2011 levels, according to GTM Research in a study conducted for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Reuters today reported that 506 megawatts of solar capacity were added in the first three months of the year. The spike is spurring optimism among proponents of solar power, although Reuters reports that the uptick was likely due to projects that were qualified under US government grant programs that expired in 2011.

The article notes: “GTM said that following the first-quarter data, it had raised its forecast for U.S. installations to 3,300 MW this year, up from the 2,500-2,800 MW, it had predicted in March.”

The boost is also surprising given that the US solar industry is embroiled in a trade dispute with China. The US Commerce Department is charging China with dumping solar equipment in the US and has imposed tariffs on imports. IHS iSuppli has predicted Chinese solar imports could represent as much as 60 percent of the US market for solar power in 2012.

Two companies in particular, Suntech-Power and Trina Solar, were subjected to US tariff rates of 31.22 percent and 31.14 percent, respectively, according to IHS iSuppli. This could help turn the tide for domestic solar equipment makers. Prices are expected to increase as inventory buildup in North American begins to decline and China targets other markets.

For consumers, installation prices dropped to below $1 per watt for the first time. Reuters adds:

    Utility-scale solar costs fell 24.7 percent, while commercial-scale projects, which are typically installed by companies or municipalities, dropped 11.5 percent.

    Costs for residential solar systems fell 7.3 percent, even as the year-over-year installation volume rose by nearly a third.

    Those home rooftop systems remain the smallest segment of the solar market, but have shown steady growth in recent years, helped by the introduction of the solar lease programs from several companies.

3 comments on “A Brighter Forecast for US Solar Market

  1. elctrnx_lyf
    June 13, 2012

    Does it necessarily mean that solar cell manufacturers in us are going to have good sales in the near future?

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 13, 2012

    @electrynx: Good question, and I posed the same question to myself as I wrote this piece. The association cited is an association to promote solar in the US so naturally they believe US (or North American) companies will benefit. IHS, hoever, provided some statistics on how much equipment/panels are produced in the US, and the percentage is pretty low. So it is not an automatic assumption that US companies will benefit, although the tariffs, if they hold, can't hurt.

  3. Ariella
    June 14, 2012

    @Barbara Even if US companies don't benefit, it still will be a good thing to use more solar power in the US. It is clean and, as far as I know, has no down side, unlike wind turbines that pose hazards to bats and birds.

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